Writing and Photos by @Julia_V
The motherboard is one of the most important pieces of your PC, as it is what holds all of your components together. But how much do you know about it? Whether you’re a veteran builder or just putting together your first PC, you’ve probably heard of “sockets” and “chipset,” but do you know what they are and what they do? We’ve put together a high-level explainer detailing what a socket and chipset is and what you need to know about them
Every motherboard will have a CPU socket–this is where the CPU fits into the motherboard. Between different generations of motherboards, manufacturers such as AMD and Intel make adjustments to the CPU sockets. Knowing the socket of the motherboard will help you determine what CPUs will be compatible with your motherboard, and which coolers will have the bracket to fit on the motherboard.
Common socket types one might see today are: AM4 (AMD), LGA1200 (Intel), and LGA1700 (Intel). The AMD motherboard socket does not have pins on the board itself, while the Intel motherboards do. AMD motherboards come with a small metal latch on the side to secure the CPU after it’s seated on the board. Intel motherboards come with a metal frame with a plastic cover on top to protect the CPU pins. As you raise the metal latch on the side of the socket, the frame and the cover lift up, and you can see the pins on the motherboard.
The motherboard chipset controls the communication between the CPU, RAM, storage, and other peripherals. Motherboard chipsets live on the motherboard themselves and determines how many high-speed devices it can support (USB ports, PCIe devices, etc). Both AMD and Intel motherboards will have built-in onboard Wifi options. Common chipsets one will find for Intel and AMD include the following:
X570: supports Ryzen 2000, 3000, and 5000 series CPUs. X570 supports up to 3 PCIe 4 M.2 drives and has overclocking support for CPU and memory as well. X570s are generally better built; they come with higher quality heatsinks and cooling capability throughout the board. X570 motherboards will support up to 8 USB Gen 3.2 2x2 (20GBps). If you are looking to build a high-end gaming PC, a creative workstation, or a solid daily use machine that supports lots of high-speed storage, the X570 chipset would be a great fit.
B550: supports Ryzen 2000, 3000, and 5000. While it does support 5000 G series processors, such as the 5600G and the 5700G, it does not support 2000 or 3000 G-series processors. B550 motherboards support CPU and memory overclocking. They typically only support 1 PCIe Gen. 4 drive but will have up to 3 Gen 3 NVMe slots. In terms of USB ports, they support up to 2 USB 3.2 2x2 ports. The B550 is a great choice for gaming or general desktop use for the average PC builder.
Z690: supports 12th Gen Alder Lake. Z690 motherboards support CPU and memory overclocking, up to 4 PCIe Gen. 4 drives, and are generally built with higher quality materials to ensure better power delivery for overclocking and heavier-duty tasks. These motherboards have variants that support either DDR5 or DDR4. Z690 motherboards can also include up to 4 USB 3.2 2x2 ports (20GBps). If you have an unlocked 12th Gen Intel processor, Z690 will help you draw out the full potential of the processor. These boards are great for enthusiast-level desktop and gaming. Some Z690 boards will have high-end features such as Thunderbolt 4 (40G), 10G Ethernet, and SLI.
H670: supports 12th Gen Alder Lake. These motherboards do not support CPU overclocking, but they do support memory overclocking. Most common H670 support up to 3 PCIe Gen. 4 drives, and can support up to 2 USB 3.2 2x2 ports. They do theoretically support DDR5 memory, but the vast majority of them will support DDR4 only. The H670 chipset is a solid choice for those who are looking to build a solid day-to-day and gaming desktop but are not looking to overclock and push the performance of their processors.
B660: supports 12th Gen Alder Lake. B660 motherboards do not support CPU overclocking but typically support memory overclocking. They may have more than 1 PCIe NVMe slot, but the most common B660s would only have 1-2 Gen 4 slots. As for USB, they can support up to 2 USB 3.2 2x2 ports. B660 boards are a good choice for regular desktop use or light-budget gaming builds.
H610: H610 boards support 12th Gen Intel processors, but do not support CPU or memory overclocking. They only have PCIe Gen. 3 SSD support, and only support up to 2 USB 3.2 2x1 (10G). While they are relatively limited in terms of high-performance features, they are great for their value. H610s are a great choice for office machines and basic daily computing tasks.
I'm still running my X299 build 🤣, been thinking about upgrading for awhile now
Thanks for the great breakdown, Julia
The CPU socket is your PC's throne for the king—the CPU. It's where the magic happens! But it's crucial to ensure the throne fits the king—meaning the socket type and your processor have to match (like LGA 1200, AM4, etc.). 🎯🔧
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